Columbian School approves new major

Students can major in women’s studies after the Columbian School of Arts and Sciences faculty unanimously approved the new option Dec. 1.

The CSAS faculty approved two five-year master’s-bachelor’s degree programs, a BA in women’s studies, MA in public policy with a concentration in women’s studies and an MA/BA in women’s studies, said Heidi Lindemann, executive aide of the women’s studies department.

Students have shown interest in the new major, Lindemann said.

We’ve got four people who have officially declared within the first week and probably about six to ten others who are on their way but just haven’t done the official form, she said.

GW has had a master’s program in women’s studies for 27 years, making it the oldest of its kind in the country. GW students have had the option of a women’s studies minor since 1989.

(The women’s studies program) has gotten stronger in the past years, with the appointment of uniquely outstanding faculty, GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said. We expect great things from them.

Women’s Studies department Director Diane Bell said 10 of 14 universities with comparable women’s studies departments to GW offer women’s studies majors.

We’ve been out of line, she said.

Bell said the major was created partly in response to student requests. She said the University was losing students who may not have chosen GW because it did not offer a women’s studies major, and the undergraduate major may help recruiting for the graduate program.

Senior Molly Adler said she has already arranged to double major in psychology and women’s studies.

I was very excited when I heard there was a major and they were going to accommodate graduating seniors, she said. I’ve taken as many women’s studies courses as possible. It’s much more relevant to what I think I will be doing in my career – whatever that may be.

Adler said she is glad the Women’s Studies department accommodated graduating seniors who wanted to declare the major – especially because one of the requirements for the major, a senior seminar, will not be offered until next fall.

Basically, it was like how do we find women’s studies credits in your schedule? Adler said. I’m taking a (graduate) class in women’s studies and I’m going arrange with the professor a project that will fulfill (the seminar) requirement. We’re kind of figuring it out as we go.

Bell said students majoring in women’s studies will benefit from the program’s emphasis on research and theory.

Students will come out (of GW) with broad range of interests, but we know they have rigor in theory and undertaken a piece of research, she said.

Bell said a women’s studies committee and advisory body of faculty in the department and related disciplines worked on a proposal for the major by surveying other women’s studies majors at other schools and other majors at the University.

After the CSAS faculty approved the senior seminar course earlier this year, Bell said a curriculum committee reviewed the department’s courses, personnel and GW standards and approved the major.

The department worked with the Gelman Library to make sure the library has all the resources to support the research necessary for the major, Bell said.

We now have all the courses we need, and a strong faculty, Bell said.

The major’s prerequisite is Women’s Studies 001, Women in Western Civilization. Women’s studies majors must complete four 100-level courses, including Introduction to Women’s Studies, Varieties of Feminist Theory and the senior seminar in addition to six 100-level courses within the department, according to the women’s studies department Web site.

Adler said the major is a step forward for GW.

A lot of feminist events on campus would make mention that we don’t have a major and we need one, she said. I knew that one day there would be a major, I just didn’t know it would be this semester.
-Sarah Lechner contributed to this report.

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